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Buffett Finally Falls Off His High Horse

Stocks in this article: LZ BRK.B

I hope this finally knocks Warren Buffett off his pedestal, not because he's a bad person, but because he's a bad role model for America's youth, especially the ones who want to go into finance. David Sokol should be their role model, an example of the true face of finance.

Buffett's legacy is harmful in several ways. First is the obvious one, which is that he perpetuates the myth that anybody can get rich picking stocks by doing Buffett-like things. Sure, you can. But most people would do better to put their money in an index fund. All the Buffett cottage industry does is make a living for people writing books like Investing the Warren Buffett Way (a title I just made up; no offense intended if there is an actual book by that title). Efficient market theory maintains that Buffett is an outlier, like the monkey throwing darts at the stock tables (when they used to print stock tables). Even if you don't embrace the efficient market theory as much as I do, you have to admit that most people just don't have the patience or ability to research companies the way he does, or the clout to cut deals as he does.

There is also a tendency to ignore Buffett's habit of talking out of both sides of his mouth on subjects like derivatives. Buffett has called derivatives "financial instruments of mass destruction." In 2002 he said, "I view derivatives as time bombs, both for the parties that deal in them and the economic system." But he had no hesitancy lobbying Congress last year to exempt existing derivatives contracts from financial-reform legislation. The reason was that Berkshire Hathaway had a $63 billion portfolio of just those very "time bombs" that he was publicly denouncing. I guess time bombs are OK when Buffett has them in the trunk of his car.

And now we have a third reason to knock Buffett off his pedestal: His people are as anxious to make a buck by any means necessary as anyone else in finance.

Not to worry. You'll be happy to know that Sokol is about to build a "mini-Berkshire" now that he has left the big one. He wants to start up his own financial company, predicated on the principles enunciated over the years by Warren Buffett.

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